Field of Cloth of Gold: 1. Setting

The Tudors’ incredible ‘Portable Palace’

In 1520, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France met near Calais in order to strengthen the bond between their two countries. It is estimated that about 12,000 people attended, including royals, nobles, attendants and servants.

The meeting took place from 7 to 24 June in a valley between Ardres in France and Guînes the English territory of Calais and is sometimes described as the first European summit in history.
The occasion, famous for the sumptuousness of the materials used for the tents, pavilions and other furnishings, made the place known as the Field of Cloth of Gold and the valley subsequently took the name of Val d’Or.
Both kings used the meeting as an opportunity to show off their grandeur and riches.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold owes its name to the spectacular fabric, cloth of gold, woven with strands of real gold that covered Henry’s tent.

The most peculiar thing was that, in the Field of the Cloth of Gold. everything was temporary and only served to make a show.
Henry had commissioned a portable palace filled with ornaments characteristic of a Christian royal court: gold statues of the saints stood next to a crucifix festooned with pearls.
The construction of this extraordinary engineering feat required the work of nearly six thousand men.

The palace was built on brickwork foundation, but the walls and roof were made of canvas painted to imitate real stone. The framework was of timber specially imported from the Netherlands, the windows were of real glass and the façade was adorned with sculpture.
In the distance it looked just like a real palace with an elaborate entrance gateway surmounted by a Renaissance shell motif.
Two fountains placed at the entrance provided wine and beer for the king’s guests.
Behind the temporary palace were the king’s golden dining tent, and fully equipped ovens and kitchens and in the fields beyond the castle, thousands of tents erected for less distinguished visitors.

Francis built or adapted an equally splendid temporary residence in the city of Ardres, in which Henry and his close entourage were received. These quarters were as luxurious as those of his fellow monarch, with blue velvet walls richly embroidered with France’s gold fleur-de-lis.

Unsurprisingly the event nearly bankrupted the two countries,
According to an estimate by historian Greg Jenner: “King Francis I spent 400,000 livres (£40,000 in Tudor money) on this 2-week spectacle. But the crown later sold off lots of the fabric and accoutrements in 1543, recouping 125,000 livres….. King Henry VIII … spent £36,000 on the festivities – more than his royal household’s entire annual expenditure, and more than 1/3 of England’s total annual income of £90,000…
Jenner goes on trying to equate it with modern money, and comes to the figure of around £32.3 million by today’s standards, but he points out that … if economies etc were to be properly compared, the Field of the Cloth of Gold would probably cost hundreds of billions today.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold, oil painting of circa 1545 in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court.

‘Il Campo del Drappo d’Oro’: 1 Ambientazione

Nel 1520, Enrico VIII d’Inghilterra e Francesco I di Francia si incontrarono vicino a Calais per rafforzare il legame tra i loro due paesi. Si stima che vi partecipassero circa 12.000 persone, tra reali, nobili, attendenti e servitori.

L’incontro si svolse dal 7 al 24 giugno in una valle tra Ardres in Francia e Guînes nel territorio inglese di Calais ed è talvolta descritto come il primo vertice europeo della storia.

L’occasione, famosa per la sontuosità dei materiali utilizzati per le tende, i padiglioni e gli altri arredi, rese noto il luogo come il Campo del Drappo d’Oro e la valle prese successivamente il nome di Val d’Or. Entrambi i re usarono l’incontro come un’opportunità per mostrare la loro grandezza e ricchezza.
Il Campo del Drappo d’Oro deve il suo nome dallo spettacolare stoffa intessuta con fili di vero oro che rivestiva il tendone di Enrico.

La cosa più singolare era che tutto era temporaneo e serviva solo a fare spettacolo.
Enrico aveva commissionato un palazzo portatile pieno di ornamenti caratteristici di una corte reale cristiana: statue d’oro dei santi stavano accanto a un crocifisso decorato con perle.
La costruzione di questa straordinaria impresa ingegneristica richiese il lavoro di quasi seimila uomini.

Il palazzo era posto su fondamenta in muratura, ma le pareti e il tetto erano fatti di tela dipinta in modo tale da imitare la vera pietra. La struttura era di legno importato appositamente dai Paesi Bassi, le finestre erano di vero vetro e la facciata era adornata con sculture.
In lontananza sembrava proprio un vero palazzo con un elaborato portale d’ingresso sormontato da un motivo a conchiglia rinascimentale.
Due fontane poste all’ingresso fornivano vino e birra agli ospiti del re.

Dietro il palazzo temporaneo c’erano la tenda da pranzo d’oro del re, i forni e le cucine completamente attrezzati, e nei campi oltre il castello erano state erette migliaia di tende per i visitatori meno illustri.

Francesco costruì o adattò un’altrettanto splendida residenza temporanea nella città di Ardres, nella quale furono ricevuti Enrico e il suo stretto entourage. Questi quartieri erano lussuosi come quelli dell’altro monarca, con pareti di velluto blu riccamente ricamate con il giglio d’oro francese.

Non sorprende che l’evento abbia quasi mandato in bancarotta i due paesi-

Secondo una stima dello storico Greg Jenner: “Re Francesco I spese circa £ 40.000 in denaro Tudor per questo spettacolo di 2 settimane. Ma la corona in seguito vendette molti tessuti e accessori nel 1543, recuperando parte della somma … Re Enrico VIII spese £ 36.000 per i festeggiamenti – più dell’intera spesa annuale della corte reale e più di 1/3 del reddito annuo totale dell’Inghilterra di £ 90.000…”
Jenner continua cercando di equipararlo al denaro moderno e arriva alla cifra di circa 32,3 milioni di sterline per gli standard odierni, ma sottolinea che — se le economie ecc. dovessero essere adeguatamente confrontate, il Campo del Drappo d’Oro probabilmente oggi costerebbe centinaia di miliardi.

64 thoughts on “Field of Cloth of Gold: 1. Setting

  1. I have always heard of the Field of Gold but knew nothing about it except that the two kings met. Fascinating story, Luisa. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you very much for bringing history to life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Spectacular show Luisa. And now the rich simply fire rockets off into space. Showoffs and spectacles still abound. Even the poor have found Insta and TikTok to shout, Hey look at me. Thanks for sharing. Happy Saturday. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ciao cara, sono come Alidada anch’io adoro questi generi di storie, dal loro racconto je vengo sempre rapita!!! Come sempre grazie per omaggiarci di questi bei racconti e bu9n proseguimento di giornata 😘

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, I’d never heard about this historical event before. It’s endlessly fascinating on many levels, especially as the event almost bankrupted both countries, France and England! So thank you Luisa for sharing more of your “gold” today. Love and light, Deborah.

    Like

  5. Il dipinto ci permette di avere una idea parziale della magnificenza ostentata in quella occasione.
    Sarebbe curioso sapere se l’Autore fu testimone oculare o si basò solo sulle descrizioni fornitegli.

    Like

  6. The field of Clothes of Gold would have been the eighth wonder of the world Civilizations if kept intact till today . One third of its national income , Henry VIII spent on the Summit leaving the coffers of England empty . Similarly , Francis I of France spent about £40,000 ( of Tudor currency ) . Both met just to show friendship between the two countries . 12,000 people participated in the Summit drinking wine and galloping meat , beef and fish between 7th June to 24th June 1520 (only for about two weeks spectacular performance as such) spending altogether about estimated £32.3 millions as per today’s standard . It all has become a history . Splendid history . Never to be repeated again . Thanks for providing us such a valuable information .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Executed in a time where the King’s word alone was law. They operated with impunity and were the law and so therefore above it. No one could question either King about the magnitude of wealth being lavished on this foolish venture. To have done so, would undoubtedly have cost them their heads. This mindset is still very apparent in today’s society, where the 1% hoard their riches and willfully ignore the levels of poverty their greed and hoarding has driven societies into.
    As you say, it was all a pointless venture, nothing good or lasting was achieved by it. Just men being peacocks, who had the biggest fan tail!
    Excellent post Luisa, I had long forgotten about this particular moment in Henry’s history. Such an impossibly vain pair of men…

    Liked by 1 person

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